In the opening moments of the new documentary “Bad25” – debuting at 9:30 p.m. today on ABC – Michael Jackson is speaking about the painstaking effort he and others poured into the making of “Bad,” the 1987 album that cemented his status as the biggest pop star of his time.
“A lot of people just see the outcome of the work,” he says in his familiar soft-spoken tones. “They never see the work you go through to produce the outcome.”
Director Spike Lee is making sure that millions of Thanksgiving viewers will, indeed, get a feel for that work via his documentary that offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look.
Five years after the blockbuster success of “Thriller,” Jackson was feeling the pressure to deliver a worthy follow-up. One adviser suggested he take the easy way out and release a collection of cover songs.
But Jackson would have none of that. Instead, he envisioned another epic and, according to the film, would routinely scrawl the numeral “100,000,000” on the mirror and notebooks - a reference to how many units of the album he sought to sell.
“Bad” didn’t come close to approaching that number, but it nevertheless was a huge seller and artistic success. It became the first album in history to produce five straight No. 1 singles.
Lee takes a song-by-song look at the album while deftly weaving in fresh perspectives from people who worked on “Bad,” including producer Quincy Jones, and interviews from current pop stars such as Kanye West, Mariah Carey and Chris Brown.
Some of the most compelling sequences in the documentary are made up of rehearsal footage – and choreography work – for the “Bad” music videos, one of which was overseen by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. Also included are discussions about what kind of image and look Jackson wanted to project for the album.
It was right around the time hip-hop was taking off, notes Richard Price, who wrote the script for the “Bad” video, and Michael wanted to “show the brothers that he’s down.”